Big money in elections now speaks louder than ever

In the midst of January's State of the Union speech, a young president departed from tradition by publicly scolding the members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that, I believe, will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.

"I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests ..." the president declared.

Obama showed neither deference to the Court nor to the longstanding tradition calling for the justices to remain silent, show no emotion nor respond.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers and Obama Cabinet members arose to loudly applaud the president's comments, virtually surrounding the justices who sat passively.

Except one.

Justice Samuel Alito Jr. winced visibly and seemed to mouth the words, "Not true."

While the president was very rude, time has shown he was also very right.

In October and November, the floodgates were wide open. Hundreds of millions of dollars in new campaign money flooded the election process to buy negative ads.

And much of the money is now completely untraceable.

Entirely new groups sprung up outside the national party system to collect and spend the millions.

Karl Rove's new group, American Crossroads, is thought to have spent $50 to $80 million in this cycle.

NBC News reported that the bulk of this funding "came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls," no doubt many of the same Wall Streeters who nearly sunk the U.S. economy in 2008.

Democrats have had their own deep-pocketed benefactors, like billionaire financier George Soros. In Maine, Wall Street mogul Donald Sussman has funded a variety of liberal causes, including Congresswoman Chellie Pingree's re-election bid.

But the Supreme Court decision has had an even more far-reaching impact.

Campaign spending reports will eventually show that far more was spent on legislative races than ever before.

Karl Rove's group bought attack ads against Democrats in five Maine Senate races this year, including the one between incumbent Deb Simpson of Auburn and former Sen. Lois Snowe-Mello of Poland.

In one day just before the election, outside groups bought $87,000 worth of attack ads against Simpson. She then qualified for $38,000 in Clean Election funding, which she said came too late to be used effectively.

Clean Election matches are limited to twice the original amount given to candidates.

So, in a Senate race like Simpson's, candidates can receive a maximum of $38,000. It is likely that Snowe-Mello, who won the race, would have spent well over $100,000.

And this is happening in races across the country, in far larger amounts.

Big bucks don't always win races, however. The three millionaires who spent collectively more than $250 million of their own money on U.S. Senate races this year all lost.

Still, money does open doors, buys influence and affects the outcome of legislation. In fact, during the last presidential administration, lobbyists for coal, oil and power companies were appointed to agencies that actually wrote coal, oil and energy legislation.

We can debate forever the legal merits of the Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates.

The undeniable effect, however, is that very wealthy individuals, unions and corporations now have more influence than ever before.

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 's picture

Keep in mind that the US

Keep in mind that the US Chamber of Commerce pumped millions of dollars into this election, the bulk of which came from foreign sources, including China. I hope they're happy with their purchases...

RONALD RIML's picture

They must be referring to the EU (European Union)

Otherwise the Editorial Board has an obvious case of Rectal/Cranium Inversion

 's picture

Make 'em pay

If an entity is going to air a negative, attack, etc. ad, then media should be able to charge five times the going rates. If the ad is anonymous, ten times the going rate.

RONALD RIML's picture

Stockholders proposals say "No!" (Like it mattered)

On the Nov 5th annual shareholder meeting of of agriculture giant Archer Daniels Midland Co, which operates in 119 congressional districts over 36 states, in addition to 60 countries - two stockholder proposals to either limit or increase transparency to ADM's political contributions were both voted down.

One proposal was made by Dr. Marie Bogda, DVM - who at one time had been a research veterinarian for General Foods Co (Gravy Train) - and an old friend of mine back when I was a stark, raving conservative. A crochety old liberal, she put her actions where her mouth was. When she saw that I was going to (rather unsuccessfully) try to pull a U-Haul from Illinois to Maine with an under-powered Dodge Caravan in the middle of winter - she loaned me her 'Heavy Duty Dog Hauler' with a 'Carol Mosely Braun for Senator' sign in the window to make the trip - then drove up a few days later with my van as she "Wanted to go to L.L. Bean" then pick up her Dog Hauler. A real Mensch!

 's picture

And now you're a stark, raving lefty.

There's change we can all believe in.

RONALD RIML's picture

With a soul

How's it feel, Frost-heart?

 's picture

It feels great, Truthless.

But you spelled it wrong. The only soul you'll ever get close to is the sole on the bottom of your size 13 combat-slippers, from which you hourly have to scrape the deposits from your schnauzer.

I hope you got a life-time supply of Gravy Train from your benefactor, and that you have gotten used to the taste. It will help to tide you over the bad times coming until Republicans repair the damage.

RONALD RIML's picture

With the Witless Wiztard of Waterville at the Helm the Damage

Is yet to Come. - - Now He's got the MHPC number magician Tarren Bragdon on his staff. Bragdon, as you might recall, was one of the authors of the September "Fix the System" report on Welfare by the Maine Heritage Policy Center

A Nov 4th analysis - "Poverty and benefits in Maine: What do we know?" by the unabashedly conservative Boothbay Register compared Bragdon's report with one released in July entitled "Poverty in Maine" by Ann Acheson of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center.

What does the Boothbay Register say? "Of the two reports (Bragdons) is higher on rhetoric and less clear on its use and its explaination of data. (His) report has a clearly stated agenda and seems to include only data and information that benefit its argument."

For a publication friendly to Bragdon's side of the aisle, the Boothbay Register is refreshingly honest concerning Bragdon's self-serving use of rhetoric and data. Just what Maine needs for a trusted advisor to a new Governor. Bend over, Citizens - screw facts and good government - dogmatic adherence to conservative retrenchment is on the way.

 's picture

While I agree with Obama's

While I agree with Obama's statement, I have to wonder if he would have been so vocal had he not just had his ass handed to him in the elections....just sayin.

 's picture

not quite true, the Democrats

not quite true, the Democrats wont let them CUT SPENDING to pay for them (which is what needs to happen). Cut spending, cut taxes. The result is that those working 'lowly' jobs end up with a little more coin in their pocket (along with nearly everyone else).

 's picture

What I find amusing is this.

What I find amusing is this. During the primaries both Jackass & Elephant. The LOSERS spent the most $$$$$$. During the general election, the SAME was true. Honesty & integrity prevailed over dishonesty (Jackass) and special interests in the election cycle.

 's picture


And the republiclowns now want to add to the deficit at least another $840 billion over the next ten years.

 's picture


That's the best you can come up with? The bailouts are Barney Frank's fault because he's gay? Now that's a mature outlook on things!

RONALD RIML's picture

Actually the chickens came home to roost in the last two years

The ones hatched by the unfunded tax cuts of Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II.

Republicans always cry for tax cuts - but never pay for them. Just like the two wars of Geroge Bush that weren't budgetted nor paid for. Did you think Obama was going to shidt a Golden Egg????

And yes - you will top it, crying for less and less taxes.

 's picture

The corporations, big

The corporations, big business and the well-to-do are the ones who create jobs - real jobs, not government pencil-pusher jobs or phony low-pay, no-benefits, short-term jobs like the census. If you want to give LePage a chance, do so because our state government may now begin to stop punishing success.

By the way, Harry Reid was reelected for exactly one reason - the boatload of money thrown to him by the unions he panders to.

 's picture

Not at all. I mean high-tech

Not at all. I mean high-tech companies, computer, engineering, ... The ones we're supposed to have been attracting to Maine for years with a work-force prepared by ... a few years playing frisbee with Angus-King-laptops; the companies who won't consider coming to our state until we do something about high taxes, high insurance rates, high utility rates, ... all of which can be addressed by repealing decades of liberal mandates.

That said, if the best you can manage is a retail clerk position, your choices are (1) be happy and stop whining, (2) re-educate yourself, or (3) move to where the jobs are. What you should not expect is to be able to support yourself, much less a family, on a minimum-wage job. That kind of rug is suitable only for a lap dog.

 's picture

Very interesting editorial,

Very interesting editorial, but where's the numbers for our just closed governer's race? I think the thing that should worry most Mainers is how much of that outside money came in support of Paul LePage and for the attack ads against Cutler and Mitchell. How many favors for those millions of dollars is the LePage camp now owe?
I don't want to give Maine, or any state over to the influence of big business, I'd still like at least a hope of having some citizen control over what transpires here.

 's picture

Scramble the names around any

Scramble the names around any way you like: How much of that outside money came in support of A and for the attack ads against B and C? The question is equally valid. Since you chose the order you did, I suspect what you really want is Democrat control over what transpires.

 's picture

You forgot the Unions, again

You forgot the Unions, again

 's picture

The electorate has a mind of

The electorate has a mind of their own and spoke loud and clear. One party Democrat rule in DC and Augusta has cost future generations trillions in debt.

We're not idiots as the teleprompter president would like you to believe.

 's picture


I found this last election cycle to be disgusting. Both of the major parties were nasty and disrespectful of each other. I was very disappointed with the influx of money from outside our state in order to spread lies about the candidates. However, I was also very disappointed with the Democratic and Republican parties. So disappointed in fact, that this long time Democrat is going to register as an Independent.

The Congress needs to pass legislation to close this loop hole in the campaign finance laws. I don't hold out much hope since this all benefited the Republicans, however, we get to vote again in two years so there is always hope.


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